American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

South America, Peru—Cordillera Blanca, Santa Cruz Attempt and Huandoy Norte Tragedy

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1975

Santa Cruz Attempt and. Huandoy Norte Tragedy. Bill Hooker and I organized and led an eleven-man expedition in June to atempt new routes on Santa Cruz and Huandoy Norte. After establishing Base Camp at 14,700 feet in the Quebrada Raucolta, we began the difficult task of finding a route through the glacier and icefall to the lower west ridge of Santa Cruz. After many false starts, Ken Jern and Brent Miller found a route through the glacier only to be stopped at 16,500 feet by an 80-foot slightly overhanging ice wall. Ken put out a masterful effort, aiding up the wall and fixing a rope. Since our porters refused to jümar up the rope, we spent the next few days hauling hundreds of pounds of gear up 1000 feet of fixed rope to a camp at the base of the ridge at 17,500 feet. From there we climbed to 19,200 feet where, in a precarious spot, we established another camp. That night we were hit with a 24-hour storm. The high winds blew away one man’s sleeping bag, and heavy snows and small avalanches collapsed our tents and morale to the point of retreat. From Santa Cruz we went to the Quebrada Parón and started immediately for the northwest side of Huandoy Norte. After four days of load carrying, we established a high camp at 18,000 feet. On the afternoon of July 15, Ken Jern, George Oetzel, Mel Wright and Tim Duffy were finishing their ninth pitch of ice at 20,000 feet when a huge ice avalanche broke off the face at their level and a quarter mile to the northeast. At that time Brent Miller and I, Bill Hooker and Glenn Converse, and two Peruvian porters were approaching the high camp below. The avalanche killed Bill and Glenn immediately. Brent and I were able to avoid injury by jumping into a crevasse, and the porters were able to run out of the way, being a bit ahead of us. The camp was destroyed and gear strewn all over the glacier. Our four friends above, who had witnessed the accident, started rappelling, arriving at midnight. We spent three days getting off the mountain.

Thomas A. McCrumm

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